What's New in Technology for September, 2009

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Technology: Can Social Networking Boost Your Business?

You might think that your Website is all you need to build business in the Web 2.0 world. That might not be true anymore. Technology in the form of networking sites, where users share information online, has completely changed all that. This revolutionary shift in the media universe has created both challenges and opportunities for businesses large and small.

Entrepreneurs have discovered new ways to leverage this new media universe. If you think that social networking means only sites such as FaceBook, MySpace and Twitter - where people post self-focused commentary and photos - read on. Community-driven Websites built by business owners for business owners have opened up new opportunities. These sites provide a forum for users to post questions, get opinions on technology and find business opportunities, referrals or a qualified specialist or freelancer to help with a new project. HereÂ’s an overview of what these Websites can do and how you might benefit. 

Created to serve entrepreneurs as well as owners and managers of companies with less than 500 employees, MyVenturePad is a moderated online business community backed by SAP, a large software manufacturer. Members use the site to ask questions, seek expertise and share insight and experience. MyVenturePad carries stories on a variety of business topics, such as finance, hiring, compliance and technology tips. Users locate a relevant article and review the online conversations it generated. The member can join in the online exchange or contact a participant to seek his/her experience with a particular business issue.

In addition to providing the opportunity for dialogue among business owners who have the same needs, the site also provides links to other resources. Users can hook into podcasts and Webinars. MyVenturePad started in November 2007 with broad-based business topics. Since then, conversations have branched out into more specific areas of expertise.

LinkedIn, a bigger network with more than 20 million users in 150 industries, is a powerful research tool with an emphasis on personal connections. It was developed primarily as a site where professionals could connect with former colleagues, get referrals and identify new job opportunities. Although job listings and referrals are still a major part of the site's function, its users have helped it evolve into a powerful research tool. The Answers feature can help with any type of business-related question, such as who to hire if you need a reliable caterer for an out-of-town tradeshow or where to find a good commercial property broker.

To safeguard members from spam-like avalanches of blatant self-promoting or marketing pitches, LinkedIn is a monitored community. That means initial contact between members takes place via the site, allowing you to share your email address with fellow members later. Basic membership is free. For a Business or a Business Plus account, expect to spend $19.95 and $50 per month, respectively. Access to company profiles and other value-added features, such as industry statistics and targeted job listings, are available to those who purchase upgraded memberships.


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